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As product companies well know, customer references are often key to the acceptance of new products. When promoting cutting-edge technologies, references are often cited as the key to helping companies drive their new product into the mainstream. References are just as critical to the services business; they are the seal of approval for a consulting organization. Without them, you lack credibility. Without credibility, your customers become very price-sensitive. There are four types of references that a services organization should seek:

  • Product references. First and foremost, the professional services organization of a product company should help develop product references. The goal of the services organization is to make a customer wildly successful at using the product. The entire product company benefits from this type of reference.

  • Capabilities references. Next, the services organization should build references that attest to the wonderful skills of the service employees. If the services organization claims to have the best Internet security experts in the industry, it's important that past customers are willing to validate that assertion.

  • Solution references. Solution references establish your credibility in a specific solution area. If you want to be known as an expert CRM implementer, you need a customer who will state how much you know about installing CRM software. Regardless of the customer's industry, that reference has solution credibility.

  • Industry references. These references establish your credibility in a specific industry. If you want customers to believe you understand automotive manufacturing environments, you need an auto manufacturer to crow about how well you understand their specific business and or technical environment.

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